Head of Design at Logitech, Marcel Twohig, shares his top tips for making the most out of your design career.
Navigating your way through the design industry can be tough. Design disciplines are continually segmenting, new tools are being released with increasing frequency, and the whole idea of a design studio has been turned upside down in the past two years.
While it’s easy to get caught up in all this churn, sometimes it’s good to zoom out and identify some simple steps to develop as a designer. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
🎨 Blog header illustration by ls.graphics.
1. Master your craft
I’m always surprised at how little attention is paid to this. The first and most important thing that all designers should focus on is mastering the craft of their particular discipline.
Right now, design is more accessible than ever. Anyone can find the tools and inspiration online to try their hand at some design work. So what separates the real designers from everyone else?
The difference lies in the practiced skill. A good designer can take a vague idea and make it tangible. That ability to bring clarity and vision through form, line, color, or motion is a skill you need to work at.
It may not be popular to say in this age of wellbeing and self-care, but the only way to do this is by spending long hours on the tools, staying up late, and working harder than anyone else. There is no shortcut.
Mastering how you use your tools to articulate your ideas will make you an essential asset and impossible to ignore.
2. Create self-initiated work
This might seem obvious, but when people want something they tend to seek out those who are already doing it.
So if you want to get paid or hired to do a certain type of work, you need to start doing it yourself first. I have always just called this self-initiated work.
At its most basic this can serve as a way to flex your creative muscles, learn new skills, and give you a creative outlet when the day-to-day work is not so fulfilling.
But you can also use these projects to take your career in the direction you want. All you need to do is develop your own brief for a dream project and then publish the resulting designs in a targeted way.
I’ve always done self-initiated projects to create opportunities, and it works. The world is eager for new ideas and perspectives. The only barrier is inertia, so just go and do it.
3. Learn how to tell a story
I hate it when designers describe themselves as storytellers, but if you don’t know how to tell a good story, chances are your design ideas won’t go very far.
Maybe learn to tell a story is just a nicer way of saying learn to sell. Either way, selling your ideas to your creative director or to a client is an essential skill, and using the attributes of storytelling is a clever way of doing this.
All this means is that the design work itself is not enough. When communicating your work, you need to frame it within a relevant context. The work should have a clear theme. You need to be aware of your audience and the narrative you are telling them. You need to bring them on a journey to understand the work.
4. Work with good people
The sub-heading of this post says “from the product designer behind the world’s number 1 mouse: MX Master 3”. This is not entirely true. I am the Head of Design for the MX Series, but it is the talented internal design team at Logitech coupled with some external agencies who design these products and bring these experiences to life.
In other words, if you want to do good design work you need to work with good people.
It’s rare that design is an individual activity. We always work with business partners or clients, other design disciplines, and producers or vendors to realize our design visions. The nature of these relationships has a tangible outcome on the quality of the work.
I am lucky at Logitech to work with a team of talented, conscientious and passionate people. It’s time well spent to build relationships like these and find individuals who share your values.
5. Do the wrong thing
In my career as a designer, almost all of the most successful outcomes have come from doing things that on paper seemed like the wrong thing to do.
I’m not saying that you always have to play the antagonist, but you do have to be willing to question the status quo and sometimes bet everything on that position.
Whether it’s as simple as challenging a brief or as risky as leaving your job to break out on your own, the biggest rewards come from taking a leap of faith.
I can’t guarantee that if you follow these steps your design career will blossom, but they might help you step back and look at the bigger picture.
As a designer, you need to master your tools and skills so you can do the work that you want to do. Then you need to be able to communicate that work in a way that brings people on the journey with you to realize your vision.
And don’t be afraid to break the rules. If everybody likes your ideas then you aren’t doing anything new. ■
About Marcel — Head of Design, MX Series at Logitech
Marcel was born in Dublin but grew up in the West of Ireland. With a sculptor father, art and design were inherently part of his upbringing and prior to studying Industrial Design he had already worked on a number of large public stone sculptures.
Having gained experience as an industrial designer working both in-house and as a consultant for a diverse range of global consumer electronics clients, Marcel founded Notion Design Studio in 2009. With Notion, he began working across furniture, lighting, and personal accessories as well as working with start-ups and launching his own small batch production runs.
Marcel’s work has received numerous industry awards (IF, Red Dot, Good Design) and has been exhibited at London, Milan, and New York Furniture fairs as well as the MoMA New York.
Since 2017 Marcel has been Head of Design for the MX series at Logitech. Follow him on Linkedin.